After a busy weekend of football I’ve collected what I think are the biggest stories. I didn’t include the Ducks because the win has been covered elsewhere in exhaustive detail already. Saturday’s games cleared up the playoff picture for some teams and gave us a feel of how solid some conferences are top-to-bottom.
Clemson Takes the Pole Position
The Tigers took on the reigning Heisman champ in Louisville. Many questions were asked about how well Clemson could contain Lamar Jackson. Jackson and the Cardinals had a disappointing end to the regular season and terrible bowl game, which really dampened the Heisman hype. This game was going to determine if Jackson could repeat or possibly not make it to New York City.
The Clemson defensive line dominated and Louisville completely abandoned the run. A one-dimensional offense was easy for Clemson to defend and exploit. Clemson sacked Jackson three times and scored a pick-six. Most of Jackson’s statistics, while impressive, were recorded when the game was well determined. Tiger quarterback Kelly Bryant went 22/32 for 316 yards and three total touchdowns. He is on the verge of being the next star in the ACC.
With Florida State losing their starter and now putting Louisville behind them, Clemson really only has Virginia Tech on the schedule. That game kicks off on September 30th. There’s still time for Florida State to adapt, because they face Clemson November 11th. For now, it looks like Clemson will be able to make it to the playoff.
Alabama and Then Everyone Else in the SEC
The SEC has secretly been declining the last few years. Luckily, the conference has Alabama winning championships most years so that they can argue they’re the best conference by virtue of having the best team.
Florida and Tennessee both participated in one of the most inept showings of offense in recent memory, eventually won by Florida on a Hail Mary to keep them in the driver’s seat for the SEC East title. Both teams committed three turnovers and the score was 6-3 heading into the fourth quarter. Some terrible defense did some favors for the scoreboard with Tennessee scoring 17 in the fourth quarter and Florida scoring 20.
Other conference darlings, Auburn and LSU, struggled. Auburn beat Mercer 24-10. Mercer is just a few years from returning to college football. Auburn averaged only 3.4 yards per carry and had 5 turnovers, 4 fumbles and a pick. LSU was embarrassed by Mississippi State. No matter who is quarterback or who is offensive coordinator, LSU struggles to get a competent passing game. Danny Etling was 13/29 for 137 yards and the rushing attack only mustered 133 yards at 4.6 yards per carry. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitgerald looked fantastic scoring 4 touchdowns himself.
State of Oklahoma Reigns
The Big-12 was has only been in one of the college football playoffs so far but with the way some of the conferences are shaking out they could get one in this year. Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have been excellent so far this year.
Last week, Oklahoma exposed Ohio State’s offense as they got a great 31-16 win on the road capped by Baker Mayfield’s revenge.
While Oklahoma took on Tulane this week, the Oklahoma State Cowboys tore apart Pitt. The Cowboys led 35-0 in the second and 49-14 at the half. The dogs were called off in the second half with only 17 points scored between both teams. Mason Rudolph was near perfect going 23/32 for 497 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The stats do not convey just how good Rudolph looked, especially when he was slinging the rock to Jalen McCleskey who caught 3 of those touchdowns and got 162 yards on 7 catches.
Both of these teams are on a collision course for November 4th. The Big-12 will have a championship game so if one team gets the win in both games they can safely make it into the playoffs.
PAC-12 Surprises, For Better and For Worse
USC won a thriller over Texas 27-24. I’m not sure if you know this, but the last time these guys played was 2006 in the national championship and Vince Young had a great play to win it at the end. No one has talked about it so just wanted to make sure you were in the loop.
The Trojans were a 14-point favorite over Texas who looked terrible in their loss to Maryland. The Longhorns turned the ball over 4 times and for some reason Sam Darnold has become turnover-prone, throwing 2 interceptions himself. Both ground games were held to 1.9 yards per carry and pretty much relied completely on the pass. The two teams are pretty close on every statistic and in these types of games it often comes down to one play. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who looked great t times, was stripped at the two in the second overtime. USC scored on their possession and won the game. When it gets down to it, the playoff committee is going to ask “how many wins?” before “how many points?”
Cal was a pleasant surprise this week also. They are just one game shy of hitting the over on Vegas’ season win total over/under of 3.5. Their win over North Carolina seemed like an unlikely but plausible win before they sneaking past Weber State. Ole Miss is having some serious problems but not enough to where they should be dropping games like this. I think the Cal coaching staff is going to have this team turned around a lot faster than everyone is expecting. The Cal defense held Ole Miss to 1.8 yards per carry. Cal was down 16-7 at the end of the first half before scoring ten points in both the third and fourth quarter. Ole Miss made it easy in some situations with their 16 penalties but this Cal team has shown it can handle adversity in all of their games, taking teams best punches in the first half before being solid in the second half.
Tako and I were talking about UCLA playing Memphis on Twitter and he felt that UCLA dropping this game would be the most UCLA thing ever and the Bruins lived up to his expectations. Memphis is no slouch and at no time did it seem like either team was fully in control. Josh Rosen played well going 34/56 for 463 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, his 2 interceptions and a few incompletions couldn’t have come at worse times. Riley Ferguson is the best quarterback no one has heard of and he threw 23/38 for 398 yards and 6 touchdowns to 1 interception. UCLA will play Stanford Saturday night and both teams could use a win.
The biggest surprise of the weekend goes to Stanford and their last-minute loss to San Diego State on the road. This could just be a really bad game for Stanford. They went 3/11 on third down but threw 3 interceptions. Why they ever go away from their pounding rushing attack, especially Bryce Love. The Stanford line has always been great and they opened up holes big enough and consistently enough for Bryce Love to average 14.2 yards per carry en route to 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. Keller Chryst went 9/20 through the air for 72 yards and 2 costly interceptions. Ryan Burns got a pass attempt but the quarterback position has been the Achilles heel for the Cardinal since Andrew Luck left.
Utah takes on Arizona in the desert on a Friday night. This weekend’s slate isn’t the most exciting on paper, but that’s when the weekends turn out to be the craziest. TCU plays at Oklahoma State and USC plays at Cal. Michigan is at Purdue who has the best turnaround so far this season. Mississippi State will travel to Georgia, which will be a good barometer for both teams.
Washington will be playing Colorado and Oregon will be playing Arizona State at night. So #PAC12AfterDark applies to both of those games.